The inspiration for “You Know Me, Al” Ring Lardner’s series of fictional baseball stories. “I and the Liberty Bell are the only attractions in Philadelphia.” –Ping Bodie, during his 1917 stint with Connie Mack and the Athletics
Born Francesco Stephano Pezzulo in San Francisco, California, Ping Bodie took his last name from Bodie, California, where he once lived. The “ping” referred to the sound of his 52-ounce bat smacking the bean-filled “dead” baseball of his time.
Though Bodie was a fine ballplayer, much of his fame came from the fact that he roomed with fellow Yankee Babe Ruth during the 1920 and 1921 seasons. He was also cited as the main inspiration for writer Ring Lardner’s series of baseball stories, “You Know Me, Al.”
Bodie began his career in his hometown with the Pacific League’s San Francisco Seals, a team that would later serve as a proving ground for the DiMaggio brothers.
After hitting 30 home runs during his first season with the Seals–quite an accomplishment at the time–Bodie was signed by the Chicago White Sox and became a top outfielder in the American League. His best two seasons were his rookie year with the White Sox, when he batted .289, and his final year with the Yankees in ’21, when he batted .295. Bodie also played for the Philadelphia Athletics for one season under Connie Mack.
With the Yankees, he played center field alongside Babe Ruth, nicknaming him “Bambino.” When asked if he was indeed rooming with Ruth, Bodie replied, “That isn’t so. I room with his suitcase!”
He ended his major league career in 1921, and returned to the minors, playing for the San Francisco Missions. He retired from baseball in 1928 and became an electrician and bit-part actor in Hollywood.
Bodie died of cancer in 1961, and was elected to the National Italian American Hall of Fame in 1980